In the year 2011 the Chinese coastal fishing village of Wukan did something nobody in the People’s Republic thought was ever possible: protesting over alleged corruption in sales of land in Wukan, the villagers led a revolt and actually overthrew their local Communist Party leadership. After a brief period under siege by government forces, the Guangdong province party chief proposed a deal that was flabbergasting to the rest of China – the chance to hold free democratic elections for their municipal council if they stood down. Wukan accepted, the polls were held in 2012, and the humble village became something of a beacon to other towns that perhaps one day, they too could do things like Wukan did.
Come Tuesday September 13, five years after the fact, a new wave of protests from Wukan ended with an all-out operation that arrested protesters and dismantled the municipal government, effectively killing the so-called “Democracy Village”.
Video footage and reports by The Daily Mail show a grim picture, riot police confronting Wukan residents protesting what they deemed the unlawful arrest of their own elected party secretary, Lin Zuluan, back in June for charges of bribery. They saw it merely as a means by the CCP to stop cold their village’s campaign, led by Lin, to make the government answer for their land grabbing and selling, and recover the money owed to Wukan.
But this time, under the more rigid line laid down by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Wukan’s actions led to Lin Zuluan’s arrest. His constituency then received a strongly worded written message to stand down their protests or prepare for bigger trouble.
They villagers never knew what hit them. At dawn 3 AM of Tuesday the riot police swept in, breaking down house doors and hauling off persons suspected of complicity with Lin in instigating the protests, 13 in all. Another five are now the targets of a nationwide manhunt.
The video showed protesters attempting to fight back with thrown bricks, but riot trooper retaliated with tear gas and brutal firing of rubber bullets at all visible targets, including women and the elderly. Amnesty International China researcher Patrick Poon described Wukan in the aftermath as completely sealed off, with access denied even to all media.
Inside, police are everywhere. While officially only Lin and his “cohorts” have been taken into custody, in a broad technical sense the entire town and all its residents are now for all intents and purposes imprisoned criminals.
On the official side, the local Public Security Bureau in the nearby larger town of Lufeng, claimed the police action was to restore stability to Wukan by breaking up the protest and arresting its ringleaders. The state-run broadsheet The Global Times has it that the government had long addressed the villager’s issues already.
Whatever the reason, one thing is clear. Democracy as Wukan sees it is not allowed in China.
Photo Credit to www.nst.com.my